Autism, Gaming, and a Pandemic

I am writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic.  One can usually find the bright side to even the darkest of tragedies.  As someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), when taking a walk, it isn’t unusual for me to change paths to avoid crossing paths with someone.  I am delighted when I have a trail to myself.  I continue in the midst of this pandemic of taking walks and am amused I have the excuse of a pandemic to dodge human beings on the path.  Seriously, I yearn for the day I can go back to social distancing on MY terms.

A coping mechanism for me during quarantine is to play games on-line.  I would have never thought I would become a video-gamer.  Not in a million years.  You see I have never wanted to play games with others. I didn’t as a kid and that has no changed with my aging.   I am a do-it-myself person.  I am content as I can be in entertaining myself in solitary.  Just one of my qualities living with ASD.

It was shortly before the pandemic, around Christmas of 2019, that I took up video-gaming.  It only takes one video game console to dive into video games.   Logically, I know that.  But one of my ASD traits is I go way, way overboard with anything I try and fall head over heels with.  I do mean overboard!  This explains why that Christmas I bought myself an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and a virtual reality device.  The gaming was an offshoot to my long-held obsession with electronic gadgets.   After all, video consoles do have power cords attached to them.

The video-gaming hobby came at a good time though as COVID-19 became a household word.  My having to go into quarantine was not as much a challenge for me as other family members since social isolation is what I daily do on the Spectrum.  But I got bored and anxious like most people did and gaming was a coping mechanism.

I also did on-line surveys to pass the time.  It’s another “solo” activity and the extra plus is I am paid with a little bit of spending money and gift cards.  One of the surveys I took was on the topic of video-gaming.  No surprise that my answers proved to be a snapshot of my ASD.

Some of the survey questions asked the following:

Do I prefer games that focus on single-player vs. multi-player?

This was the easiest question to answer.  I don’t play solitaire, but I do play in solitary.

 

Do I play just for fun vs. being a serious gotta-win gamer?

Winning isn’t my motive for playing.  I don’t know what it is to be a serious winner.  Oh, I like to win, but I can have fun without winning.

There’s an old saying that practice makes perfect.  Well, I am happy to say that with more gaming practice, I have on occasion ended a game in  “first place”.

 

Do I care more about playing games to help me improve real-life skills such as fine and gross motor skills or more about games letting me live a different life than I really have?

The games exercise my gross and fine motor skills, both of which need plenty of fine-tuning.  So I care more about that.  However, I am entertained with getting to race cars and shoot targets that I have only done in my imagination.

 

Did I prefer games with realistic themes vs. fantasy or sci-fi?

I had a wild imagination as a child and I haven’t lost that in my senior years.  Delving into fantasy and sci-fi is a break from the business of living.

 

Did I enjoy playing game puzzles, such as jigsaw, or did I find such games boring?

I don’t find game puzzles boring.  I am a jigsaw fan and of other word and board games.  Puzzles have for several years been food for my ASD brain!

 

Did I tend to play games for action vs. games with a story?

Action is my favorite because it is quick.  A story requires focus and patience and I don’t have much of either.  That’s one reason why I’m not big on reading books or watching movies.  If I do watch a movie, it is at home by myself and where I can do something else, like a crossword puzzle, during the movie.

 

Did I prefer games that challenged my mind vs. games that offered a big reward?

I care nothing about the rewards.  I pay little attention to the game statistics and reward number.  The games are food for my mind and practice for my skills.  During the pandemic, video-gaming has been fun, a way to pass the time, and take my mind off of the dark headlines.

 

Did I schedule a time to play video games or only played during my free time?

Another easy question.  A schedule helps to keep me on a steady keel.  Most everything I do is on a schedule and gaming is not an exception.

 

Do I prefer games that are single-tasked or multi-tasked?

Single, please!  The fewer buttons on the remote that I have to push the better are my chances of a decent score.  One of my favorite single-tasked games is Ping-Pong, for example.  It’s a game on my virtual reality device.  I play with an alien-like figure instead of choosing to play with real-life humans on-line.  My focus is hitting the ball over the net.  I have more success at this game versus one where I have to use multiple buttons such as moving right to left or up and down, another button to perform some action, and so on.  I play multi-tasked games, but my strength is a game where my focus is only on one task.

 

Finally, my ASD is still at play when I have a game controller in hand.  My lack of balance, motor skills, and speed put me at a disadvantage but with practice, I am improving and that motivates me to keep at it.  My goal isn’t to finish third, second, or first.  It is primarily to have fun, especially during a pandemic!

My Thinking Cap

I am the quiet one.  When surrounded by people in a group setting, I seldom say a word unless called upon.  When I’m talking with one person and another joins us, it is as if I had a mute button that comes on automatically.  In groups where I am not a stranger, people usually don’t bother with me except with the “Hello, how are you?’s”  I’m fine with that.

What they see is a quiet one, but what they can’t see is my brain is a busy bee.  It is taking in what the others are saying along with their tones of voice and facial expressions. The analysis of it all will still be going on in my mind long after the group has disbanded.

That is just how it is for me living on the Spectrum.  Not necessarily a bad thing or a good thing; it’s just the way it is with me and my thinking cap.

 

My Precious Space

Image may contain: possible text that says ''I love to be left alone. I cope with life by withdrawing into my own head and thinking my own private thoughts Any interaction or disturbance to this private world is very upsetting.' Alis Rowe 6 a facebook.com/thegirlwiththecurlyhair'

The above picture hits me right where I live!

I cherish my space!

Space became an issue when I moved in with my dear, sweet Mom after retiring from the federal workforce in Washington, D.C.  My precious space was reduced to the size of a bedroom.  The bedroom is also occupied by my Mom’s mega-sized computer desk.  I have a passion for computers, laptops, tablets, etc.  My Mom doesn’t share that passion and does not use her computer near as much.  She does make almost a half-dozen stops in my room throughout the day to see what her FACEBOOK friends are up to.  I’ll just say sharing my space does NOT come naturally to me.

I feel trapped sometimes when someone else is around while I am in my precious space. I prefer to do most things by myself such as computer tasks, working on crossword puzzles, video-gaming, and doing household chores.  I like doing things with NO witnesses. It’s like driving with a back seat driver behind you second-guessing your driving performance.

I’m mostly okay when my Mom comes in and checks in on her FACEBOOK.  I try to be patient if she’s in a conversation mood even when I am not.  But it’s a whole different story when my Mom plays a video accompanied by SOUND!

Logically speaking, I know she has every right to do so.  It is her computer and furthermore, it is her house!  But with having Autism, my reaction to the sound is way out of bounds.  What comes over me I cannot fully describe in words.  I have tried to stay in the room and try to get my mind off of it.  I have as much success at getting my mind off of it as I would have ignoring a sliver of glass stuck in my foot.   I don’t tell her to turn it off since I have no right to dictate such.  Telling her to turn it down doesn’t work because I can hear it at high, medium, and low volumes.  The only coping mechanism is to get off my rear and leave far enough that the sound isn’t within earshot which usually entails going outside weather permitting; if not, there is the garage.  When the sound is gone, my meltdown is over.

I am not bothered if the sound is coming from my computer.  Easy fix!  Just turn it off if I don’t want to hear it.  I don’t write this off as simply a control thing.  Yes, if I am playing the sound, there is no meltdown.  However, my turning into a wild animal when hearing sound around, above, or below me is something I truly wish I could control.  Autism is what it is.  I have coping mechanisms, but just when I think I’m in control, my Autism rises up and slaps me in the face.

On the bright side, and there is one, there’s no space like my space.  Space where I can pursue my strengths and passions.  Space where I can stim to my delight.  My bedroom isn’t much space since my electronic gadgets do take up a lot of room.  But what space of my own there is, I feel blessed to have it and cherish the time I am in it.

Conversation Popper

Image result for aspergers and conversation

 

I am in the midst of family or friends who are having such a wonderful time of conversation on a topic(s) they are excited about.  The problem for me is I have no input on it.  My mind goes blank.  If by chance someone in the group brings up a topic right up my alley, I’ll come to life until the topic drops.

If this get-together is being held at home where I live with other family members, my bedroom is where they’ll find me if I cross their minds.  During their visit, I turn into a “popper”.  I’ll pop in if I think of something to say that might attract their attention.  Once I have my input, I retreat to my space.

Image result for aspergers and conversation

I  am not a total “no show” to houseguests.  I can even pretend to be engaged.  But enjoy it?  No.  I can’t make my inner self enjoy anything.  Either I do or don’t.

I’m not this way because I want to be the “mute” one in a group or the one who doesn’t join the others at the dinner table with the family.  I can’t make someone understand who wonders “why don’t you just do it?”  One would have to dwell in my brain and even if that were possible, I doubt I’d have any takers.

I wouldn’t ask someone with asthma “why don’t you just breathe normal-like?”  All I could give an asthmatic is empathy.  That’s all I ask too.

What might surprise folks around me is it does bring tears to my eyes sometimes when I’m amidst such joy and excitement and can only pretend that I feel it too.